Ligustrum sinense

I have been contemplating this post for a while now, but A’s comment this morning brings it to my attention that it is HIGH TIME it get done. Regarding the possibility that privet pollen was the cause of her (and my) allergies these last few days, she said, “oh, no! i love privet! please tell me it is not what is doing this to me!!” well, that was the first time i’d seen “love” and “privet” in the same sentence and I was concerned.

Ligustrum japonicum - waxleaf Ligustrum sinense - privet

Privet in our family is a bad word. Once upon a time, when all the exotic Asian varietals and new plants were introduced, people got really excited. Southerners, in whose soil these plants thrived—and MORE than thrived—immediately filled their yards with the showy and heavenly scented non-native wisteria, honeysuckle, trumpet flower, kudzu and privet. Privet was valued for its easy growth as a quick hedge, a substitute for the restrained boxwood in Southern formal and slightly less formal gardens. Country yards could suddenly afford a lush and easily maintained accoutrement of the wealthy but this also meant homeowners intentionally ringed their yards with what would soon prove a problematic invasive.

Recently, Ligustrum has repeatedly come up as an attractive yard shrub in several circles and after some confusion is has been determined that there ARE vastly different varieties. On the Vernacular Georgia trip down to Clinton I felt a bit silly arguing against my elders that that rather nice tree-like shrub in the yard of a historic home could NOT be Ligustrum despite the tell-tell blue berries. The leaves were much larger and waxy, nothing like the flimsy little leaves of the hedge that encircles Sunshine’s yard (and bursts from the orchard). Turns out, it’s a different kind, Waxleaf Ligustrum some might say, or Ligustrum japonica perhaps, wikipedia images do little to help the definition hence the extended confusion at the discovery that all privet might not be the invasive woody weed I’d learned to abhore. On top of that, what wikipedia returned for me first was English privet which looks nothing like either!!

Today we might liken this to the current fanaticism for Thuja Green Giant, a fast-growing evergreen, bred and marketed for its ability to “Quickly screen out neighbors or unsightly areas….without taking up a lot of yard space…” A few words of wisdom any landscaper or gardener would do well to remember, weed resistant! fast growing! such traits should be questioned, not for the verity but for what else that says about the nature of the plant. just be wary, and don’t you dare plant any Ligustrum sinense (Chinese privet) near my yard.

webpage for identifying invasive plants

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